EDINBURG, Texas — The transition to virtual learning has been difficult for all parents, but for families of a student with disabilities, it’s harder. Now the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will give them money to get some extra support.
“He and I are just together every day,” Deborah Tomai, a mother to a 3rd grade special needs child said.
Tomai has a 9-year-old son with down syndrome.
“I function as his paraprofessional at home, to help him stay engaged, to be creative about how he does the work,” she said.
She says the support Edinburg ISD has continued to provide amidst online learning has been great, but the situation is still challenging.
“If I were working, I don’t know how i would do it,” Tomai said.
To help parents like Tomai, the TEA is launching the Supplementary Special Education Services (SSES) program.
Parents can apply for $1,500 per student with a cognitive disability to ensure their educational progress.
Tomai says she’s considering applying, because the money could be used for services the school doesn’t cover.
“Things like behavioral therapy, because it’s a big difference doing school at home than it is doing school in a classroom,” she said. “In a classroom, you have models of behavior. We all sit at our desk this is what you do. And at home, this is just not the way you live.”
According to the TEA, up to 20,000 accounts will be issued to students enrolled in an individualized education program at a public school.
The money can be spent on tutoring, therapy and digital resources, but the vendors must be approved by the agency.
While Tomai says she’s appreciative of the thought behind this program, she is concerned finding approved providers could be an issue.
“If they’re going to say, ‘Here you can have this money. Do whatever you want with it. Here’s the list of people you can contact,’ that’s one more thing on my plate,” she said. “People I have to contact or meet or get to know or figure out who does behavioral therapy, what does that cost, how often could they come.”
The online application is set to open by the end of the year and will be available for four months. Families will know if they’ve been approved within five business days. The SSES application will also be available in Spanish.